Writing Competence Assessment Tools

The writing competencies of students are appraised differently. There are various tools, or instruments, for appraising the competencies that are defined as being traditional. The rest are characterized as non-traditional or even alternative. The traditional ones include quizzes, CRTs (Criterion-Referenced Tests), and NRTs (Norm-Referenced Tests), among others. The alternative instruments include social media and song rewriting, among others. Each of the instruments has unique impacts on the students whose writing competencies are being appraised (Fletcher, 2000; Thomas, Lee & Thomas, 2008). As well, each of the instruments is suitable for particular assessment approaches.

Criterion-Referenced Tests

As noted earlier, CRTs are traditional tools for assessing the writing proficiencies of given learners. CRTs provide for the translation of writing test scores into the corresponding behavioral statements. Notably, most writing assessment quizzes and tests written by writing instructors can be taken as CRTs. They are aimed at establishing whether learners have gained specific writing competencies, knowledge, attitudes, and abilities. Notably, CRTs formed a principal research focal point in the 1960s and 1970s. As used in the term CRT, criterion, does not mean a cut-score. Rather, the criterion is writing domain that a given quiz or test formulated to appraise (Goldstein & Hersen, 2000). For instance, in a CRT, one of the criterions may be that learners should write a 500-word essay with no grammatical errors. The corresponding cut-score can be that the learners should have a maximum of five grammatical errors in the 500-word essays.

Theoretically, every learner in a specific writing assessment cohort, or set, could score rather lowly or highly. The writing performance of the learner is dependent on her or his performance against the preset criteria and standards. CRTs report learner attainments against given reference points. Ideally, the points are objective and have no regard to the learners whose writing proficiencies are being assessed. CRTs can give rise to straightforward fail-pass scoring schemas.

CRTs are diagnostic since they are used in making out the writing needs, as well as previous knowledge, of learners so as to direct them appropriately to suitable writing experiences. CRTs are needs-centered since they are utilized in the determination of the writing competencies, knowledge, attitudes, and abilities of samples of learners to help with course development as well as the gap analysis. Gap analysis establishes variances between the level of writing competencies, knowledge, attitudes, and abilities that given learners have and the levels they are supposed to attain over specified durations. As well, CRTs are summative as they are elementarily employed in determining the writing proficiencies of given learners via the usage of learner writing assessment.

Notably, CRTs do not provide for the uptake of the writing-related advice offered by instructors by learners. Such advice is usually geared towards enhancing writing proficiency and given written works. Rather, CRTs only offer learners platforms for taking up limited advice without having opportunities to rework on their written tests, or works, following expert advice (Thomas, Lee & Thomas, 2008). The learners taking CRTs get opportunities for exploring varied writing genres, subjects or topics in the same test rather than just focusing on a particular genre, subject or topic. Besides, CRTs offer learners opportunities for appreciating the connections between the tests and their grasp of particular subject matters. The tests establish whether learners have mastered how to write appropriately on particular subject matters.

Norm-Referenced Tests

NRTs are traditional tools for assessing the writing proficiencies of given learners. They are evaluations, assessments or tests that estimate the levels of given learners’ writing proficiencies in pre-characterized populations following the writing aspects being appraised. The estimated levels arise from writing score analyzes along with other related data from samples of given learner populations. NRTs help establish whether a learner got a better writing test score than his or her colleagues taking the same writing test with respect to specific purposes. That means that NRTs help compare the writing proficiencies of different learners.

The tests taken to assess writing proficiencies of students in examinations such as the WISC (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children), the SAT, as well as the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) are all NRTs. They all compare the writing competencies of given students with the related competencies of given normative student samples. Notably, one cannot get a fail in an NRT since he or she gets a mark, or score, that shows his or her writing competence in relation to those of his or her peers. Theoretically, NRTs are hinged on the supposition that an approximately similar human writing proficiency range defines every learner group (Goldstein & Hersen, 2000).

Like CRTs, NRTs are diagnostic since they are used in making out the writing needs, as well as previous knowledge, of learners so as to direct them appropriately to suitable writing experiences. Like CRTs, NRTs are needs-centered since they are utilized in the determination of the writing competencies, knowledge, attitudes, and abilities of samples of learners to help with course development as well as the gap analysis. Just like in the case of CRTs, as regards NRTs, gap analysis establishes variances between the level of writing competencies, knowledge, attitudes, and abilities that given learners have and the levels they are supposed to attain over specified durations (Fletcher, 2000; Thomas, Lee & Thomas, 2008). As well, unlike CRTs, NRTs are relational, or comparative, as they are elementarily employed in determining the writing proficiencies of given learners in relation to others via the usage of learner writing assessment.

Theoretically, every learner in a specific writing assessment cohort, or set, could score rather lowly or highly. In NRTs, the writing competencies, knowledge, attitudes, and abilities of the learner are dependent on the writing competencies, knowledge, attitudes, and abilities of their peers rather than preset criteria and standards. Unlike CRTs, NRTs report learner attainments against the attainments of her or his peers. Ideally, the attainments are relational and have regard to the whole cohort of learners whose writing proficiencies are being assessed. NRTs do not provide for straightforward fail-pass scoring schemas (Goldstein & Hersen, 2000).

Just like CRTs, NRTs do not provide for the uptake of the writing-related advice offered by instructors by learners. Such advice is usually geared towards enhancing writing proficiency and given written works. Rather, just like CRTs, NRTs only offer learners platforms for taking up limited advice without having opportunities to rework on their written tests, or works, following the expert advice. The learners taking NRTs, just like those taking CRTs, get opportunities for exploring varied writing genres, subjects or topics in the same test rather than just focusing on a particular genre, subject or topic. Besides, CRTs offer learners opportunities for appreciating the connections between the tests and their grasp of particular subject matters. Just like CRTs, NRTs establish whether learners have mastered how to write appropriately on particular subject matters.

Social Media

Social media, as a tool for appraising learners’ writing abilities, are considered non-traditional. When used in assessing the abilities, social media require and help learners to become highly open-minded. As assessment tools, social media are rather authentic. They move learners beyond the comprehension and knowledge levels to a new level where they are required to do more than just regurgitating the facts that they have. When used in assessing writing competencies of learners, social media provide for the exhibition of their mastery of particular writing aspects through the application, analysis, and synthesis of particular information carried by social media platforms.

When assessing the writing competencies of students using social media, an instructor may require learners to write and post Facebook or Twitter comments to his or her social media accounts. For instance, the instructor may require learners to post comments on what they learn in class in a given day on Facebook or Twitter. They may be required to summarize information of a given war into a paragraph and post it on Instagram. The instructor then goes over the posts and assesses the learners’ different writing abilities as determined from the posts. The instructor gets opportunities on social media to check on the learners’ appreciation of given writing skills devoid of the pressures that define traditional assessments (Fletcher, 2000; Thomas, Lee & Thomas, 2008).

When being assessed on the basis of posts made on social media, learners get opportunities to explore the different applications that they can put writing into. Social media assessments show what learners can do with writing and highlights their writing-related strengths rather than weaknesses. Given that the assessments are based on performance, they assist instructors in stressing that the essence of the learning how to write effectively is communication for significant purposes.

Song Rewriting

Song rewriting, as a tool for appraising learners’ writing abilities, is taken as non-traditional. Learners are required by assessors to rewrite given songs incorporating given instructional materials. Since learners are well-versed with the songs, they are expected to integrate easily what they learn about writing into them as they rewrite them (Schumm, 2006). When used in assessing the abilities, song rewriting requires and helps learners to become greatly open-minded. It moves learners beyond the comprehension and knowledge levels to a new level where they are required to do more than just recall given songs.

Song rewriting provides for the exhibition of learners’ mastery of particular writing aspects through the application, analysis, and synthesis of particular information carried by the songs they rewrite. It allows learners opportunities to explore the different applications that they can put writing into. Just like social media usage, song rewriting assessments assist instructors in stressing that the essence of learning how to write effectively is communication for consequential purposes. The assessments allow for ample instructor-learner engagements, or interactions (Fletcher, 2000; Thomas, Lee & Thomas, 2008).

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